“May God forgive you!” she said, pressing her hands forcibly against her eyes.
“D— n!” muttered the man; and, turning aside from her, he uncocked the pistol, and replaced it in his pocket —“I am a villain,” he said, “steeped in guilt and wretchedness, but not wicked enough to do you any harm! I only wished to terrify you into my measures — She hears me not — she is gone! — Great God! what a wretch am I become!”
As he spoke, she recovered herself from an agony which partook of the bitterness of death; and, in a minute or two, through the strong exertion of her natural sense and courage, collected herself sufficiently to understand he intended her no personal injury.
“No!” he repeated; “I would not add to the murder of your sister, and of her child, that of any one belonging to her! — Mad, frantic, as I am, and unrestrained by either fear or mercy, given up to the possession of an evil being, and forsaken by all that is good, I would not hurt you, were the world offered me for a bribe! But, for the sake of all that is dear to you, swear you will follow my counsel. Take this weapon, shoot me through the head, and with your own hand revenge your sister’s wrong, only follow the course — the only course, by which her life can be saved.”
“Alas! is she innocent or guilty?”
“She is guiltless — guiltless of every thing, but of having trusted a villain! — Yet, had it not been for those that were worse than I am — yes, worse than I am, though I am bad indeed — this misery had not befallen.”
“And my sister’s child — does it live?” said Jeanie.
“No; it was murdered — the new-born infant was barbarously murdered,” he uttered in a low, yet stern and sustained voice. —“but,” he added hastily, “not by her knowledge or consent.”
“Then, why cannot the guilty be brought to justice, and the innocent freed?”
“Torment me not with questions which can serve no purpose,” he sternly replied —“The deed was done by those who are far enough from pursuit, and safe enough from discovery! — No one can save Effie but yourself.”
“Woe’s me! how is it in my power?” asked Jeanie, in despondency.
“Hearken to me! — You have sense — you can apprehend my meaning — I will trust you. Your sister is innocent of the crime charged against her.”
“Thank God for that!” said Jeanie.